Hospital Dr News

Trust forced to re-examine consultant dismissal

A consultant surgeon dismissed by his trust has won a high court battle to set aside the dismissal and force his employer to hold a full investigation and hearing into its allegations against him.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University NHS Trust dismissed Mr Gideon Lauffer, on 25 June 2009, after claiming to have lost trust and confidence in him.

Mr Lauffer, with the Medical Protection Society’s representation, took the trust to the high court and on 10 August was granted an interim injunction.

The court decided that the surgeon’s dismissal breached contractual disciplinary procedures and ordered the trust to continue treating him as an employee.

The judge, Mr Justice Holroyde, said that by not following the proper procedures set out in Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS (MHPS) the trust had arguably unfairly denied Mr Lauffer the opportunity to respond to criticisms and the chance to clear his name.

The trust was ordered to go back and follow the proper procedures which include carrying out a full investigation and consideration of all allegations. The employer was also ordered to pay Mr Lauffer’s legal costs.

The MPS said that this ruling sent a strong warning to trusts that they do not have the power to dismiss a doctor without following the contractual procedures.

The trust should have followed the procedures set out in MHPS – which are incorporated into all hospital doctors’ contracts. It requires employers to consider informal resolution and – where capability is an issue – retraining. Only if these options fail should the trust proceed to a full hearing and consider dismissing the doctor.

Dr Priya Singh, MPS medical director, said: “We brought this case because it is fundamentally about fairness not just for the doctor concerned but for all doctors. No clinician should be denied a fair hearing and the chance to clear their name.

“It is in the interests of all doctors and the wider public that trusts follow proper and fair procedures before considering dismissing medical staff. Significant public funds are invested in the training of doctors. Losing highly qualified medical staff without exploring all options, particularly in the current economic climate, is simply unacceptable.”

This high court ruling follows on from a court of appeal judgment in July 2009 in a case also brought by MPS on behalf of another of its members – Kulkarni vs Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 2009. In that case, the court of appeal confirmed doctors’ rights to a fair hearing to comply with human rights legislation.

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